Guyana Wins 1987 Shell Shield
THE swiftness with which the 1987 first class cricket season in the Caribbean flew by was definitely depressing. In a matter of just over three weeks it had come and gone, without some islands having the opportunity to have a ball bowled there.
Nine first class matches were played instead of the usual 15, with the Shell Shield competition being divided up into two zones for the first time in its 22-year history, along the lines of the Geddes Grant/Harrison Line limited overs competition.
The positive returns were few in that no territory could complain of a lack of time for preparation and despite its abridgement, new talent emerged from the 1987 Shield.
The demand by the West Indies Cricket Board of Control and the sponsors Shell that Test players participate in at least one match to qualify for the 1987 World Cup Championships, billed for the Asian sub-continent, was not supported by proper arrangements, nor was it carefully thought out. Guyanese, Jamaican and Trinidadian players were asked to participate in the competition 12 hours or less after flying half way across the world from New Zealand.
It was indeed encouraging that all of nine centuries were registered with more than half of them coming from young players to whom West Indies cricket can look to as future investment. The stylish Guyanese right-handed opener Sudesh Dhaniram, appears the most gifted of the lot and led the way with two centuries in his only two innings which no doubt was a boon to Guyana winning the Shield for the fourth time.
After a putrid season with the bat last year, young Barbadian Roland Holder lived up to his promise with a masterful century against the Trinidadians and, had the Nevisian Keith Arthurton not run himself out against the Windwards at 97, he would have joined Dhaniram and Roger Harper by scoring two centuries in the shortened season. Adrian Grant’s run out at 89 against Guyana robbed him of joining the band of young century makers.
For the second consecutive year no Jamaican batsman reached the three-figure mark although Cleveland Davidson continued to prove his worth in the middle order by consistently pulling his team out of trouble. This time he had with him the talented young left-hander James Adams who has put aside his bowling talents for wicketkeeping. The consistent young opener Delroy Morgan also blossomed. Those were the only bright spots for Jamaica along with Courtney Walsh’s usual outstanding performance and their retention of the limited overs championship.
There was nothing for Trinidad and Tobago to cheer about during the Shield.
Their performance in the first class games deteriorated with disturbing progression and at the end of their campaign remained undistinguished but for an attractive 85 against Guyana by their seasoned opener Phil Simmons and a century in the one-day affair against Barbados by Gus Logie.
Nothing new and exciting came from the Windwards and it was left to Julian Charles and the roving Shane Julien along with a rejuvenated Winston Davis to salvage some self-respect for their team.
Gordon Greenidge returned from New Zealand in destructive form and Trinidad and Tobago accordingly suffered as he blasted his third 'double' for '87. However, Barbados underestimated the cohesiveness of the Guyana team and traveled to Guyana without some their important players and lost the Shield.
The Leewards came out on top of their zone after winning two exciting games. However, Richards' absence definitely affected the stability of their batting and proved detrimental in the final against Guyana. With the exception of Arthurton, they too produced nothing new in terms of talent, nor was there any exceptional performance outside of Arthurton and Benjamin.
Guyana was no doubt the surprise horse in the derby, having occupied the bottom spot in the 1986 points table. In fact, apart from the Windwards they had the weakest team on paper. Although most of their players had Shell Shield experience, the team did not have the flamboyance of Barbados with six Test players, Jamaica with four, the Leewards with Richards, Richardson, Baptiste and Benjamin and Trinidad and Tobago with Logie, Gray and possibly Gomes.
Roger Harper had just been dropped from the West Indies team to tour New Zealand, Butts and Hooper were their current West Indian players and they were virtual fledglings in that category.
The secret to Guyana's success was their preparation. For the first time in the history of the Shell Shield they had ample time to prepare and weld themselves into a fighting and victorious unit without the usual unkind weather intervening. Their cricket authorities arranged a combination of no less than ten trial and practice games which included a Goodwill four-day match against Barbados in that island.
They began their campaign by losing the one-day fixture against Trinidad and Tobago, but in bouncing back to win the four-day game (in Trinidad) there was in evidence a new approach. Occupation of the crease, which did not seem to be the game plan in the recent past, became evident and there was a new applied discipline to batting.
Clayton Lambert gave up his membership of the club of 'Happy Hookers' and in his four chances at the crease in which he posted three half centuries, was effective in laying a proper foundation. Andrew Jackman prospered in Trinidad but fell away badly on his return home while Timur Mohamed, but for his 54 not out against Trinidad and Tobago, always started but faltered just as he seemed to settle in.
Hooper's batting was a mystery, the command seemed to have drifted and students of the game were with some reluctance suggesting that he was undergoing a metamorphosis as a result of his New Zealand experience. His bowling was the most pleasing aspect of his performance.
Bamfield, as expected, served his purpose efficiently behind the stumps and with the bat, while Seeram came good at crucial points of Guyana' campaign. Garfield Charles had little work to do with the ball while the veteran Matthews performed creditably on his return in a new style of bowling.
However, the three players whose performances were outstanding, significant and vital to Guyana taking the Shield were Harper, Butts and Dhaniram. Harper's two centuries, his captaincy and his support for Butts's bowling would make him 'Player of the Shield '87'. Butts, although not being as perky as in the two previous years, continued to haunt batsmen and his 16 wickets were the most taken by any bowler in the 1987 Shield.
Young Dhaniram rose to the occasion with considerable maturity and his two consecutive record hundreds certainly left promises of greater things to come.
Teamwork Did The Trick
AFTER Roger Harper and his team had secured the Shell Shield for Guyana for the fourth time in its history, Stabroek News Sports Editor Cuthbert Monchoir had an exclusive interview. Here are excerpts from that interview.
On the 1987 Shell Shield
Harper says his only disappointment is that the itinerary had to be so reduced. He is elated, however, that Guyana won the championship, deservingly. Having placed last in 1986 it is a satisfying achievement to take the Shield this year. It is not that last year's team was a bad one. It was just that collectively it did not perform well as a team, and that's the difference this year.
On the talent which emerged from this year's Shell Shield
Harper says that Arthurton, (Roland) Holder and Grant are certainly young men of promise who have places to go. Since he has been able to observe Dhaniram more than the others, however, he says the stylish right-hander is the pick of the bunch. In spite of doubts aired about his ability to cope on faster pitches, a batsman could only make runs where he plays and Harper is confident that the young man has the ability to adjust as the situation demands.
On his new approach to batting
The Guyana captain says that too often in the past the batsmen have not been supporting the bowlers and this new approach has been influenced by that situation. He says he thought that if he were to stay there and the other batsmen bat around him Guyana would be able to make large scores and ‘it worked this time'.
On complaints about pitches, equipment and umpiring
Harper refers to Guyana being bowled out for 41 by Jamaica last year and there was no hullabaloo about pitches being tailored to suit fast bowling, so why the noise now. He says Garner's complaint about inferior equipment and balls was obviously fueled by his not getting his own way in the Guyana-Barbados game, but it is understandable that the home team in any sport would have some 'little advantage'.
In relation to umpiring, Harper says that the complaint by the Barbadian manager Duncan Carter is strange since in his opinion the Barbadians had more decisions in their favour than the home team. He goes on to say that the idea of neutral umpires is based purely on the belief that when wrong decisions are made they will be regarded as 'bad decisions' and not 'biased decisions'. The limited development of umpires in the West Indies is the result of the few first class games in the region.
On the balance of the bowling attack
Harper says that the attack is what it is because one can only utilise the best of what is available. He is, however, looking forward to a set of young fast bowlers which would serve to complement the tested and proven spin attack.